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Development of economic thought

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Dates:  Tuesday evening  April 23, May 7, May 21, June 4 and June 25.

In this course we discuss the important paradigm shifts in the history of economic thought, with attention for the historical, political and socio-economic background of the time.

The aim of the course is for students to acquire fundamental insights within the development of economic thought, to comprehend them in their relation to each other, to argue them and to approach them critically, and to use them in the analysis of contemporary problems.

This course is of particular interest for students of economics, sociology, history and journalism, and for others who wish to understand why well-educated economists may nonetheless judge the same questions in such different ways.

Module 1
Economic thinking: an overview

Reading: Mandeville

Module 2
Economic thinking before Adam Smith

Reading: Aristotle, Oresme, Hume

Module 3
The classical economists

Reading: Smith, Malthus, Mill

Module 4
The marginal revolution

Reading: Jevons, Marshall, Veblen

Module 5
A Great Systems Debate

Reading: Lange, Hayek, Keynes

Module 1
Economic thinking: an overview

Reading: Mandeville

Module 2
Economic thinking before Adam Smith

Reading: Aristotle, Oresme, Hume

Module 3
The classical economists

Reading: Smith, Malthus, Mill

Module 4
The marginal revolution

Reading: Jevons, Marshall, Veblen

Module 5
A Great Systems Debate

Reading: Lange, Hayek, Keynes

The meetings consist of a close reading of important parts of the assigned texts, discussion of the structure of their argument and the logic of the texts, and the development of an autonomous, independent judgment. Students are invited to actively take part in the discussion.

During the first meeting we offer a brief overview. We introduce the characteristic aspects of different schools of economic thought, such as Mercantilism, Physiocracy, the Classical School, Marxist Economics, the Neo-Classical School, the Institutional School and Keynesianism.

During the second meeting we discuss economic thought in the period prior to Adam Smith. We analyze the role of money and the acceptance of the profit motive, with the help of Aristotle and Oresme. We also read Hume’s famous rejection of mercantilist thought.

The third meeting is about the classical economists. Against the background of an unfolding Industrial Revolution, we contrast Smith’s optimism on the possibilities of the division of labor versus Malthus’ pessimism on population growth. We also read Mill’s contemplation of the stationary state.

In the fourth sessions we discuss the marginalist revolution, a sea-change in economic thought, via the writings of Jevons. We also contrast Marshall’s Neo-Classical synthesis with Veblen’s institutionalism.

We finish our course with a Great Systems Debate. We analyze central planning in Lange’s (market) socialism, discuss Hayek’s spontaneous price order, and finish with a close reading of two chapters from Keynes’ General Theory.

Optional: participants write a brief essay (800 words, excluding bibliography) containing their own argument for or against an aspect or view of an economist read in the course. The choice of topic is free, but it should match the themes and literature of the course.

Participants registered as students at a university may ask the board of examiners of their institutions for credit for this course.

Registration Form

    Courses are taught in Dutch or English, depending on interest.
    Students unable to pay the full course fee may apply for a scholarship of at most 30% made available by AILAS. University lecturers and secondary school teachers preparing pupils for university unable to pay the full course fee may apply for a scholarship of at most 20% made available by AILAS.

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Stichting Amstel Institute for the Liberal Arts & Sciences

Holendrechtstraat 42-3, 1078 TV Amsterdam

KvK: 67743439
IBAN: NL26 INGB 0007 5894 14

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